All Peach and No Pits at the Players Theatre

Theater

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY AUG 3, 2018

The students take over the stage tonight at The Players Theatre, where four weeks of hard work by the young actors, dancers and singers training this summer will finally pay off in a one-night-only production of James and the Giant Peach Jr. A play off the Broadway musical version of the Roald Dahl classic, the show begins at 7pm. Tickets are $15, and proceeds go to economic assistance for next summer’s aspiring actors.

For four weeks the 40 students involved have been preparing, says director Sunny Smith, an acting teacher from Booker High School who has taken the production under her wing, and the results have been “amazing.” For the first week, Smith and staff led the camp in audition prep—teaching them how to present themselves and their skills—before hosting the audition itself and casting the roles. Every student gets a part, with the nine leads focusing on one role, while others may tackle as many as seven. “But they have fun,” says Smith, “because they love to change into the different costumes and do different voices.” And week two is all about character development, musical skills and dancing. Week three brings rehearsal and acting workshops, while week four sees the addition of costumes, props, lighting and sound, all leading to the final production.

It’s a lot of work, says Smith, but towards a good cause and a good show. Not only is James and the Giant Peach “super-hot” right now, thanks to Broadway fame, and the kids enjoy singing along, but it also provides a positive message and characters for the children to explore. At its heart the story of a boy who has lost his family, the story doesn’t coddle its young charges, but urges them onward. “He’s making his way in the world with a lot of positivity,” says Smith, “even in light of all that negativity.” It’s a message kids could use these days, she says.

Seeing the students perform a matinee for other children from groups like Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Suncoast, Smith knows the four weeks have come to a close, but that her young performers have come a long way. “It’s a big accomplishment,” she says, and looks forward to doing it all again next year. “Most definitely,” she says. “I hope next year I get to see them all again.”

James and the Giant Peach Jr. opens tonight at 7pm at The Players Theatre. Tickets are $15.

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